One year ago, the coronavirus tore a destructive path through New York City. It was new; there were lots of unknowns, and before many of us understood what was happening, we were sick. I wrote the following about what occurred to my family during that terrible period. The lone update I would add is how many friends and family have reached out to say that they would have helped us. I am grateful for them and each new day.
In Mid-March, right as New York City, coronavirus cases were starting to go off the charts, my wife and I became very ill.
It started the day after the Mayor declared a state of emergency, and the sickness ran for more than 45 days. Three weeks of that time were pure hell. Hallucinatory in some ways.
The sickness started with a slow windup – about a week of nose runs, fever, sore throats, and general weakness, but even then, it felt like nothing we had ever had before. I tele-healthed my doctor, and he said that we should stay home because if it was coronavirus, all you could do was “ride it out.”
The worst part of the illness occurred over four or five days. At this point, we were having trouble breathing and getting out of bed. Walking twenty feet from the bedroom to the kitchen felt like running a marathon. It came in intense waves that would ring us out.
We, of course, have children as well. Two beautiful daughters – 4 and 8. They became sick, but it only lasted a few days, and their symptoms were mild. My oldest was aware of what was happening. She learned about coronavirus in school and was also very cognizant of masks and the talk in the subway and street corners.
When we were at our most severe, she would try to make us get out of bed. If we got up, she thought that we would be okay. One day, she asked me if dying was good. I was confused by the question, but then she explained, “If dying isn’t good, why is it happening to so many people right now?” Crying, she told us that she didn’t want us to die.
My wife was much sicker than I was. While she didn’t get out of bed for four days or so, I could at least make it to the kitchen and take care of the kids (they watched a lot of Disney +). Her breathing became worse and worse and more labored. She tried sleeping with the pillows propped behind her, but that only helped minimally.
On the turning point night, I thought my wife would have to go to the hospital. It was dark outside, and her breathing stopped and started. At that point, we could no longer avoid discussing what might happen to the kids if we were hospitalized or worse. One of the insidious things about the coronavirus is that we couldn’t call our parents or friends to help. We were trapped. If we called our parents, we risked making them sick, and if we called our friends – who would want to endanger themselves or their families?
Luckily, my wife didn’t have to go to the hospital, and incrementally, we began to get better over the following weeks. Unlike other illnesses I have had, the coronavirus took at least an entire month to recover from.
As we got better, though, I was unable to sleep for nights at a time. I would get up regularly to make sure that everyone in the house was still breathing. This continued through the recovery, and I am still working on processing what happened.
A couple of things that were godsends during that period – I have been a regular meditator for many years, and at my lowest moments late at night, my mind would return to my father, who has been dead for ten years and the camping and fishing trips that we took every weekend of my youth. I guess that was when I felt my safest and most secure.
Our recovery has been long, but we are incredibly grateful for all that we have. There were multiple times when I was sick that I would think of my life and wonder how a boy from Oklahoma ended up stuck in the middle of a pandemic in New York City. I imagined a lot of scenarios in my life, but that one never crossed my mind.
Confessions of a Teenage Goth
I was a Goth in High School, replete with red hair and a black trench coat. In the late 1980’s such minor acts of rebellion provided an easy bullseye for bullies (of which there were many in my small town), and that was kind of the point. The bullies were going to get you one way or another. You might as well as be yourself, and if you were going to be pummeled, be pummeled in style. Besides, the farm boys and jocks could only torment you during the week – the weekend was a different matter.
One of my best friends lived in an apartment complex in Tulsa, 45 minutes, and a world apart from where I was. Every weekend, I would drive my parent’s Plymouth Sundance up and enter a vibrant universe of limitless-seeming possibilities and a feast of music outside the big hair bands that ruled the airwaves in that era.
The anchor of all this was IKON, an industrial/goth club on Peoria, not far from where my father worked his day job. Thanks to an archaic law, dance venues in Tulsa could stay open all night as long as they didn’t serve alcohol. The city would close this loophole in a few years and put the kibosh on our (and future generation of teenagers) good time, but that didn’t happen until later.
My friend, myself, and the revolving cast of characters crashing at his place teased our hair, applied make-up, switched into black garb, and arrived at IKON around midnight. We entered a world of flashing lights, dark corners, distinctive personalities and flowed with the tide of adventure. There was always someone to meet or an unforgettable story to bank into memory. Mainly, it was just fun. At some point, we migrated to the club’s back and home base – a sagging couch, where we caught our second wind after dancing ourselves silly. Every weekend was a chance for reinvention outside the confines of our rural towns and suburbs. Before long, the sun rose, and we emptied onto the Tulsa streets, like vampires taking in the approaching dawn.
IKON was a refuge for the bullied, maligned, artistic, and folks who were different. It was our magic portal in a sea of conformity dominating everything around us. My mind and ears were opened to music outside saccharin Top 40 hits there (and through the crackly reception of KTOW on my boombox). I also took in many touring shows that played there (The Dead Milkmen, PigFace, Ethyl Meatplow, and The Legendary Pink Dots, to name a few). I dutifully memorized music recommendations given to me and ordered them at Mohawk Music and Starship Records. I may go back to the beatings and harassment at my school, but I could take that music with me and the expanded possibilities that it offered. Like IKON, it taught me that there was a more exciting world out there.
I culled some of that music (along with new tunes that captured the ambiance of how I felt) into a playlist for a novel I am writing. I realize that this will be a very different set of tunes than other folks who were regulars there. After all, we are all different. Let me know in the comments if you have suggestions to add to the list.
Recent years have been a time of pressing questions for humanity. We stand at a historical junction where we can embrace an uncertain future or cling to a rose-colored past that is neither glamorous nor fair as some people desire to remember. Democracy is on a razor’s edge, autocrats are on the march, social unrest has reached a boil, and the earth cries out as climate change sends us warning after warning if only we would listen. And the pandemic, of course, has decimated lives, upended economies, and kicked disinformation into overdrive. None of the issues we face are tidy or will be resolved soon. For a world raised on neat and clear-cut stories, the thought that we may be in this for the foreseeable future is exhausting. It can leave you demoralized, beaten down, and paralyzed with indecision. Like many, I have also hit the pandemic wall. At times it feels like groundhog day with the same routine over and over.
Each of us processes these challenges in our own way. For myself, this has led me to reevaluate what my priorities are. My writing, for example, has continued sporadically, but all the issues stated above have taken precedence.
Last March, my partner and I contracted a severe case of COVID that went on for two months. There was roughly a week-long period where I wondered daily if we would make it through. The lingering effects of that sickness led me to be more grateful than before. It made me more aware of savoring each moment, whether playing with my children, taking a bike ride, or doing something as mundane as washing the dishes. I have by no means mastered this and probably never will, but I find myself trying more, and that is a start.
I come out of this time of contemplation with a stronger understanding of why I write and a greater responsibility to what I put into the world. I have finished a novel and hope to release it in the fall. I am recommitted to the work that I do, but also understand that I am only human and that it is okay to let go with no feeling of guilt. I don’t need to compare myself to others. The highest success is focusing on my own happiness and being committed to my family, friends, and striving to make the world better than it was before. As I mentioned, there are no easy answers, only the beginnings of understanding and what I hope will lead to wisdom.
What big questions have you struggled with over the last year? What answers have you found?
I’m hip deep the launch of The Shadow Of All Things but I wanted to take a minute and compile some of the reviews that the book has received in its first six days.
"Honestly everything about this book was grand, the characters, the setting, the plot, and of course the monsters, and their insatiable hunger."
– Bookworm Coalition
"This story is an intriguing mix of science fiction, portal fantasy and urban fantasy...I'm a fan of the urban fantasy sub-genre and this book does quite stack up nicely amid this sub-genre...What the author does neatly is that he also adds a healthy slice of SF to the tale but makes it subtle enough so that there's no perfect delineation."
– Fantasy Book Critic
“This is the first book in another gripping series by Allen Houston...The paranormal aspects were truly unique and I appreciated this aspect since the market is flooded with same old stories with different character names...The read for me was quick, dark, and rousing, in all the good ways.” – TMBA Corbett Tries To Write
“The opening chapter drew me in right away. You won't find that slow drawn out character introduction and world building that you come across all too often in fantasy here. Instead the reader is thrown right into the action from the very start and it's consistent throughout the whole book. There's always something happening and the characters on both sides, good and evil, are well written." – Scarlet’s Web
Lots going on as I prep for the June 9th release of the first book in my new sci-fi urban fantasy series. In case you hadn’t heard, the kindle version of The Shadow Of All Things is currently available for pre-order from Amazon for $3.99. That’s less than the price of a morning Frappuccino from your favorite java joint.
The print edition which will come out the same day includes illustrations from Tulsa-based artist Colleen Beauchamp Stiles. I’ve known Colleen for 20 years and she’s done a great job capturing the spirit of the book. I encourage you to check out her site and to take a first look at three drawings that will be included in the print edition.
I’m excited to share these with you and hope that you will pre-order a copy or buy the print edition when it becomes available in two weeks.
Thanks for coming along for the ride!
I’m excited to announce that the first book in my new urban fantasy series The Shadow Of All Things is available for pre-order on Amazon now.
Pre-sale for the print edition with illustrations by Colleen Beauchamp Stiles will follow shortly and I’ll add the link for that as soon as possible.
The novel will be released on Thursday, June 9th.
Be sure and sign up for my monthly email blast today for a sneak peek at Colleen’s amazing illustrations for the book. I’ll be sharing those over the upcoming weekend.
Have a fantastic Friday!
Most authors who take the Kindle Scout challenge will tell you as an aside that the third week stretch is the most difficult part of the month long competition.
You’re not new anymore and you’ve yet to hit the final few days where numbers tend to rise again You’ve emptied the pockets of your social media contacts and turned them upside down looking for change. You’ve contacted everyone you know including the local ice cream truck driver and your Aunt Petunia’s estranged hubby who ran off to become a NASCAR Driver. Obsessive thoughts of asking people in line at your local burrito shop to vote for you skitter through your mind.
No matter how many people you flog or share your book with by week three you begin to see diminishing returns. Along with that, comes a drop in morale (I talked about this last week) and invariably a slide off Hot and Trending for a few extended periods. Every insecurity that you’ve harbored since you were a kid afraid of creepy crawlies in the dark, passes through your besotted mind, weighing you down with anxiety and a feeling that your Kindle Scout campaign will end in doom.
When those feelings come (and they will) be sure and remind your self that this too will pass. It’s only a competition after all and life will go on after Kindle Scout one-way or the other.
Even if I lose I’ve learned a lot about marketing and promotion and got a look under the hood at how many fantastic authors are self-publishing and trying to follow their dream. My suggestion is don’t put additional undue pressure on yourself and those feelings will fall away as you focus on getting through the long slog and finding new and increasingly creative ways to get eyeballs on your book.
As I hit the seven-day remaining mark, what else can I say about the past week? I dipped out of Hot and Trending for almost a whole day once, while other days I was in it only in it a few hours longer than that.
After depleting my social media contacts I reached out to online groups I belonged to who were kind enough to share the link to my book. I also stepped up my Twitter game and reached out to people through LinkedIn. Also, not everyone will nominate your book as soon as you send your message. I’ve had several emails from people in the past two days that I contacted last week.
For the last 48 hours I’ve managed an extended run in Hot and Trending, we’ll see how long I can keep that up. The book is currently evenly split this between people voting from the Kindle Scout homepage and those coming through a direct link. By far my biggest source of traffic comes from Facebook.
If you haven’t had a chance to nominate my book there is still time! Also, if you’d like to see exclusive illustrations for the print edition of The Shadow Of All Things sign up for my monthly email blast.
Well that went by fast.
The Shadow Of All Things has been in the Kindle Scout competition for a little over a week now and has managed to stay in the “Hot and Trending” section for that entire period.
That said if you haven’t nominated my new book for a possible publishing contract with Amazon go do it, I’ll wait here until you get back.
digital copy of the novel. Okay, that sounds like a better deal, you say, so how do I vote for your book?
Easy. Click on the link here and you’ll go straight to the page where you can vote on my book.
So what is this The Shadow Of All Things book that you keep talking about?
It’s the first in a new science-fiction/urban fantasy series about the Elyuum, otherworldly, spectral creatures. If you like alternate universes, conspiracies, monsters, horror, action, adventure, mystery, and a sprawling cast of richly-developed characters fighting against ultimate evil, you’ll enjoy this book.
Here’s more from the back jacket:
When a man in a torn trench coat warns college-student Evelyn Cheng that something evil is coming down the subway tunnel where their train has stalled, she is ready to write him off as crazy until the lights flicker and the terrifying creatures appear.
Through him, Evelyn discovers she is a seer and that a battle between good and evil is raging in New York City among her kind and the mysterious, otherworldly Elyuum, who seek to tighten their grip on the city.
Spanning multiple universes with a sprawling cast of characters, Evelyn and others must stop the Elyuum before they conquer all existence.
If you liked my Nightfall Gardens series, I’m sure that you’ll be intrigued by my latest project.
So click over to The Shadow Of All Things page on Kindle Scout and give it your thumbs up.
The competition runs through May 6, please share with friends and family as well as come back here for updates.
Thanks so much, dear readers.
the scenario imagining a young Asian punk rock girl standing against one of the doors, head phones on, tapping to her own rhythm as something appeared out of the dark in the glass behind her. That image lingered after the subway started back up. Who was that girl? What were those creatures? The first chapter took shape in my mind.
Almost two years have passed since that happened: two years of tumultuous upheavals, big and small, in our little corners of the globe and around the world. There’s never been a period in my life that so much change seems to be happening to so many in such a short period. The Shadow Of All Things was written in that whirlwind and I’ve tried to do my best to write an entertaining story that also touches on the fear permeating our times.
I’d like to thank the artist Colleen Stiles for her patience as we navigated this long strange trip. I missed several deadlines and we went back to the drawing board on the cover and illustrations (that I’ll reveal in the not far future) several times before we settled on the one you are looking at now. I couldn’t be happier with the finished product. The cover pays respect to NYC and also captures a foreboding, anxious quality in the text.
Thanks so much to my family, friends and of course, the readers of my books for bearing with me. The Shadow Of All Things will be coming out in late May. Stay tuned for more details including an autographed copy of the book, illustration reveal and more.